You’ve probably noticed the popularity of gin over the last few years. It’s become a firm favourite for many on nights out and for those drinking at home. People seem to be creating their own collections and setting up their own home gin bars. This article will look into the brief history of gin, delve deeper to find out how it has evolved and find some theories as to why it has become so sought after.
Basically, gin is a liquor that has an approximate alcohol by volume content of 40% (80 proof) or more and is produced from grain distillation and flavoured, in the first instance, with juniper berries or extract. Gin gets its name from the Dutch word for juniper, which is genever. It is these berries that give gin its unique flavour and aroma and makes it stand out from the other spirits.
Whilst we may frequently sip an iced gin and tonic before dinner which sounds rather sophisticated, it wasn’t always the way for gin. Gin has a rather colourful past. A Dutch scientist created a medicine using the oil from Juniper berries as a medicine in the 1600s, it was added to a distilled spirit along with botanicals to help it become more palatable. Not surprisingly, there was a rise in illness cases as many tried to get hold of this now rather appetising medicine that was only available in pharmacies. The demand was so high that several small distilleries decided to produce it commercially and a non-medical version was released.
Gin became somewhat popular during the ‘Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) when British soldiers fighting on dutch soil realised the courage that the Dutch seemed to have. This Dutch Courage was fuelled by the calming effects of genever, which they kept in small bottles hung on their belts. When the Brits returned home, they spread the news of this spirit and it wasn’t long before the Dutch were importing it across the waters.
In the early 18th Century, gin became so popular that it was estimated that nearly a quarter of all households in London were producing their own gin. Gin was a safe drink for the poor when there were many water-borne diseases around. The finger was pointed at gin for the cause of social breakdown, it is said to have caused a whole host of sins and therefore earned itself the nickname of ‘mother’s ruin’. This time was known as ‘The Gin Craze’ and it led to parliament passing at least five major legislative acts over a 22 year period of time with the goal to reduce the population’s consumption of the liquor.
As the years passed, people were discovering the perfect accompaniments to go with their gin. Quinine was used to deter mosquitoes but tasted very bitter on its own. It was added to carbonated water to create tonic water which just happened to become the perfect partner to gin.
By the 1960s the popularity of gin really surged. Cocktail recipes were everywhere and gin was a staple drink at parties and events.
Around 10 years ago, after a brief reprieve, gin was back in fashion again. Classic cocktails were revamped using premium gins and were being served in modern stylish glasses. A new wave of gins has taken over, each being produced with lots of care and attention and being distilled in small scale stills.
Gin is extremely versatile, so the gin boom continues as people demand something new and exciting. The reintroduction of pink gins and the vast choice of flavoured gins and gin liqueurs available now means that there is probably a flavour to suit everyone’s tastes. Compared to beer, for instance, gin is very low in calories meaning you can have a few without sacrificing your diet. Gin has most definitely become a craft and a prime cocktail ingredient. Many bars and restaurants offer their very own designated gin menu to keep up with this pop culture.
As gin is a popular choice for many, it wouldn’t be right for us not to offer a selection of Gin Hampers. They make fantastic gifts for gin lovers and feature a range of award winning, hand crafted and locally made gins, tonics and other delicious treats.
With gin now in its prime, many manufacturers are crafting this wonderful spirit using modern techniques while paying homage to gin's illustrious history.